AUSTIN, Texas (CN) — Two participants in a Texas “Trump Train” that surrounded a Biden campaign tour bus in a “madcap game of highway ‘chicken’” announced settlements Thursday in a lawsuit brought by bus riders who say the incident traumatized them.
The campaign bus, transporting supporters and staffers of then-Democratic presidential and vice presidential candidates Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, left San Antonio for Austin the morning of Oct. 30, 2020 – the last day of early voting in Texas for the 2020 presidential election – on the final leg of a three-day tour.
Joined by former Texas state Senator Wendy Davis, who was running for Congress, they planned to stop at three Austin-area campaign events that day. But they never made it.
Shortly after they left San Antonio, a convoy of at least 40 Trump Train members – American flags and “Trump 2020 - Keep America Great” flags affixed to the tailgates of their pickup trucks – boxed the bus in on Interstate 35 while honking, yelling and making obscene gestures at the Democrats on board. Some of them had their phones out livestreaming the pursuit on social media.
For 90 minutes they surrounded the bus and forced its driver to slow down to 15 to 25 mph. The driver finally escaped the convoy by swerving onto a freeway exit in Austin.
The campaign then canceled all remaining events on the tour.
Calling the incident an “act of political intimidation” that put them at fear for their lives, Davis, White House staffer David Gins, Biden-Harris campaign volunteer Eric Cervini and bus driver Timothy Holloway sued Hannah Ceh, her fiancé Kyle Kruger and six other Trump Train participants in June 2021 in Austin federal court.
They made claims of conspiracy, assault and violations of the Ku Klux Klan Act, comparing the Trump supporters to Klansmen who terrorized Black people to dissuade them from attempting to exercise their voting rights in the post-Civil War Reconstruction Era.
“The Klan Act prohibited defendants’ modern-day conspiracy to intimidate voters in trucks in the light of day in the same way that the law outlawed intimidation while hooded on horseback in the dark of night in 1871,” the plaintiffs say in their lawsuit, represented by the nonprofits Texas Civil Rights Project and Protect Democracy, and the Washington office of Willkie Farr & Gallagher.
The plaintiffs filed motions to dismiss Ceh and Kruger on Thursday and said they had reached confidential settlements with them.
Ceh, whose parents are also defendants in the suit, said in a statement that at the time she and others in the convoy were elated because they felt they had succeeded in sending a message that the Biden campaign bus was not welcome in Texas.
“Looking back, I would have done things differently. I do not feel that I was thinking things through at the time, and I apologize to the occupants of the bus for my part in actions that day that frightened or intimidated them,” she added.
In a statement of his own, Kruger admitted his driving had endangered the bus’s passengers and driver.
“I knew that my driving was risky, but I wanted to express my opposition to their campaign and send them a message to leave my community. While I regret now participating in such risky activity, and apologize to the occupants of the bus for my part in the actions that day, at the time I and other Trump Train participants were happy that, after our actions, the Biden campaign canceled the rest of the bus tour,” he wrote.
When the Trump Train surrounded the bus, Cervini, the campaign volunteer, was following in it in a rented SUV. And Eliazar Cisneros, another defendant, sideswiped the SUV with his pickup and left scrape marks on it, according to the lawsuit, which includes a photo of the damage.
The day after the incident, Trump posted a tweet with footage of the chase and wrote “I LOVE TEXAS!”
The same plaintiffs have a separate federal lawsuit pending against San Marcos, Texas, police. They claim officers of the Austin suburb also violated the Klan Act by not responding to 911 calls from people on the bus pleading for help.Follow @@cam_langford
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